Sherbrooke – Employees of all Quebec universities will be requesting the extension of the Quebec Auditor General’s mandate to the province’s universities. This is one of the measures to be proposed by support staff members of the Conseil Provincial du Secteur Universitaire (CPSU — Provincial University Sector Council — affiliated with CUPE), at sessions of the Summit on Higher Education on Thursday and Friday in Sherbrooke.
The Sherbrooke meeting will focus on the financial situation and the funding and governance of universities, particularly in terms of their accounting, transparency and the place of community representatives within the university.
A race for enrolment
The support staff of the universities are critical of the current university funding formula. According to CPSU president Carole Neill, the current method of student financing “creates unhealthy competition between universities, a race for students, causing institutions to develop academic programs that serve their quest for ‘customers’. It also leads to often unjustified campus expansion, at the taxpayer’s expense. Not to mention the enormous sums spent on advertising campaigns. “
As for accounting, Quebec universities have routinely entrusted their audits to the same two firms for a number of years. “In fact,” says Carole Neill, “five firms are invited to submit their services, but all the universities in Quebec keep using the same two firms, year after year. Since this is essentially public money, we are asking for the Auditor General’s mandate to be expanded to universities.”
The president of the CPSU believes that funding should remain public. “Education,” she argues, “is a right. Universities serve and should continue to serve the common good of the entire population, rather than enriching the few at the expense of the many.”
On the issue of governance, the CPSU claims that, like other groups, support staff should serve on university decision-making bodies as full members, rather than as mere observers. The CPSU also requests that, like teachers and lecturers, support staff should be consulted individually on the nomination of rectors, academic vice-rectors and deans.
For several years, the number of students attending Quebec universities has been on the rise. This increase in student enrolment has led to a corollary increase in teachers, professors and lecturers. In most universities, there has also been an increase in administrative personnel. “Unfortunately,” notes SEESUS President Stéphane Caron. “The number of support staff has decreased or, at best, has stagnated. This has had its consequences: for example, in many institutions, we can observe an increase in sick days. As for the services rendered by employees, we find that deadlines and quality are suffering.”
The Conseil Provincial du Secteur Universitaire (CPSU) represents some 10,400 workers in Quebec universities: support staff, most technical staff, trades, office workers, professional staff, tutors and lecturers.
With more than 111,000 members in Quebec, CUPE is also present in the following sectors: social affairs, CEGEPs and school boards, energy, government corporations and agencies, ports, and air and urban transport.
Carole Neill, President CPSU, office: 819 376-5044 or mobile: 819 692-0391
Stéphane Caron, President of SEESUS, mobile: 819 572-3556
Robert Bellerose, CUPE Information, mobile: 514 247-9266, firstname.lastname@example.org